It was one of those days where I was picking fights with the parents - teenagers, amirite?
Anyway, as usual I was getting flak for my messy space, as does every kid. Usually it would be my grandmother and my mother who would be the ones nagging away but this time my father was involved too. In my frenzy to put everyone down, I howled at my grandmother and my mother. That infuriated my father and he said something else, in reply I said “you don’t even pick up your own plate when you get done with lunch or dinner!”
I felt pretty pleased with myself for showing him up and I thought my mother would be very pleased too, being a woman and all that. But my mother was irate! She did not speak to me for a week after that, until I apologised. I never really understood that. Years went by, more fights happened, eventually no one apologised to anyone. We would just forget things and move on, that’s family I guess.
The closer I got to the wave of feminism and then grasping what it was about, there were a bevy of thoughts that went through my head but this memory was well hidden. The older I got the less I thought about it. Finally, I came to my idea of feminism and I was secure with that. Recently, there was a conversation that erupted at work where we were talking about women changing their last names legally and otherwise. Everyone had varying thoughts about those and that’s when I remembered this far off conversation about my mother saying, it’s not a big deal.
Anyway, coming back to the point. As I came to an understanding of patriarchy and feminism through that discussion, this repressed memory made its way back into my psyche. Now I understand why my mother was so livid.
My father does not pick up his own plate, but he lays down plates for me and makes sure dinner is served for me no matter what time I come home. He let me follow my career and fought me every step of the way so I would be even more sure about what I wanted to do. He never told me I cannot do something because I am a girl. He has never stopped me from having male friends nor has he ever reprimanded me for my dressing sense, no matter what I wear. He is on all my social media handles and believe it or not he’s more popular on most of them. He has never made me feel like I am lesser than a man in any way, and he has always made sure I am confident with my femininity. He has never instilled in me that I have to get married at a certain age, never forced me to learn how to cook or told me that I need a man to live my life happily. He doesn’t force my mother to cook dinner after she comes back from work and eats whatever it is that he can order or arrange for if he can’t cook. He proudly calls himself a house husband and boasts about my career to his friends.
Patriarchy told my dad that the woman will cook for him and take care of him, but he taught himself to be a feminist. Patriarchy told him that the women will pick up after him but he taught himself to make sure his women had everything they needed and more, not because he was bound by duty but because he treated them as individuals.
So yes, I will pick his plates up for the next how many ever years, because he respects me more than he should.